Mary, Queen of Scots

Queen of Scotland
Other names: 
Mary Stuart, Mary I of Scotland
8 December 1542 - 8 February 1587

Princess Mary, the daughter of Mary of Guise and James V was born 8th December 1542 in Linlithgow, Scotland. Six days after she was born, Mary’s father died leaving Mary of Guise to rule as regent until the princess became of age.

Mary also had a strong claim to the Scottish throne, as her great grandfather was Henry VII of England. To make the most of this, Mary was briefly betrothed to Henry VIII’s son, Edward. However, The Catholics opposed the union and broke the match soon after it was made. This resulted in further Anglo-Scottish conflict.

After a humiliating defeat at Pinkie in 1547, the Scots sought French military aid. In return, Mary was sent to France in 1548 and betrothed to the Dauphin Francois (1544-1560). It was around this time, the royal family name of ‘Stewart’ changed to ‘Stuart’ to suit the French conventional spelling. Mary married the Dauphin in Paris 24th April 1558.

Mary became Queen of France (as well as Scotland) in 1559 after the death of Henri II. She was then widowed in 1560 and returned to Scotland in 1561 having agreed with the protestant leaders that she would follow their faith. Despite this she continued to hold a private catholic mass.

In July 1565, Mary married Henry, Lord Darnley, son of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox and next in the English succession. Their three-month marriage was not a success as Darnley proved to be irresponsible and violent.

Darnley, with the help of the Earl of Morton arranged a coup and captured the pregnant Queen in Holyrood House on 9th March 1566 and killed her confidante, David Riccio. Mary escaped and rallied supported and was restored. Mary suffered illness and depression over the ‘Darnley Problem’. She gave birth to a son, James. In 1567 Darnley was murdered and the identity of the perpetrator is still in question today. Both Mary and the Earl of Bothwell are implicated.

The Earl of Bothwell proposed to Mary but she refused him. He then proceeded to capture and rape her therefore forcing her to marry him to save her honor. This marriage brought Mary inevitable ruin and her protestant lords rose against her and her army confronted theirs on 15th June 1567. Mary surrendered and was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle and was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son. Bothwell fled to Scandinavia.

Mary escaped her prison in 1568 only to be defeated at the Battle of Langside, near Glasgow. She fled and took shelter in England believing that Queen Elizabeth would support her cause. Instead she was captured and imprisoned for 19 years. In this time, a series of Roman Catholic plots against Elizabeth, some of which encouraged her assassination led to ministers demanding Mary’s execution. Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in North Hampshire on 8th February 1587, aged 44.

She was originally buried in Peterborough Cathedral, however, courtesy of her son James VI and I her body lies in the vault of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Mary, Queen of Scots (r.1542-1567)